Fr. Stewart Foster for the Catholic Herald
Several years ago I used to take Holy Communion to a retired ship's radio officer who had first gone to sea in 1918. I asked him why he had chosen that particular profession. His answer was immediate: "It was the Titanic - I remember it so well. The Marconi operators remained at their post until the end, and I was inspired by their heroism." Although by then aged 97, my parishioner spoke about the Titanic as if its sinking had happened just a few years ago. This year, as the centenary is kept of the "unsinkable" liner's collision with an iceberg in the Atlantic, and as we remember and pray for its 1,500 or more victims, there is another hero of the Titanic who merits our attention: a parish priest from Essex who went down with the ship and whose selfless actions were recalled by some of the survivors of the disaster.
Roussel Davids Byles (he took the name "Thomas" only upon his conversion to Catholicism) was born in Leeds in 1870, the grandson of the founder of The Yorkshire Observer, son of the city's leading Congregationalist minister and the nephew of a Liberal MP. He was educated at Rossall School, Lancashire, and in 1889 went up to Balliol College, Oxford. Having decided to embrace Anglicanism, rather than the Nonconformity of his childhood, he read Theology with the intention of taking Holy Orders. But in 1892 his younger brother William became a Catholic, an event that greatly influenced his own reception on the feast of Corpus Christi, May 24 1894 (hence the adoption of the name Thomas after St Thomas Aquinas). When he took his examinations in Theology he did so as a Catholic - probably becoming the first to do so at Oxford under Anglican examiners.
Read the rest at the Catholic Herald... (A brilliant resource when looking at Priesthood, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sacrifice...)